Sally Gunnell, Peter Shilton, Josh Lewsey, Sir Nick Faldo & Mike Gatting launch the Royal British Legion's 'Sport Remembers the Somme 1916-2016' campaign (Photo: The Royal British Legion)

Call to commemorate sportsmen who fell on the Somme

Posted on on 27 June 2016
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UK sports stars are backing a Royal British Legion call to remember the rugby players, footballers, cricketers, champion boxers, golfers and athletes who fought at the Battle of the Somme.

The campaign, entitled Sport Remembers the Somme 1916-2016, was launched at the Tower of London headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers ahead of this week's Centenary.  

All those involved in sport - whether amateur or professional - are urged to join in commemorating their First World War forebears.

The appeal is supported by Sir Nick Faldo, winner of six major golf championships; England rugby World Cup winner Josh Lewsey; goalkeeper Peter Shilton, English football's most capped player; Sally Gunnell, the Olympic gold medallist hurdler; and former England cricket captain Mike Gatting.

Pals Battalions

Most professional sport had been suspended by the time of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, explains the Royal British Legion.

The charity says: "Athletes and players from sports at all levels had volunteered to enlist – sometimes en masse as an entire team and its supporters. There were battalions – including the 23rd and 24th battalions of The Royal Fusiliers – that included significant numbers of athletes, footballers, and individual members of clubs and teams. 

"Many other players – from first class cricketers to amateur boxers – served in Pals Battalions recruited from towns, villages, schools, workplaces and trades. When these battalions suffered losses, as they did mostly at the Somme, the impact was felt at the club and community level."

The charity has produced 100 Sportsmen of the Somme stories –  and a free Sport Remembers the Somme 1916-2016 toolkit for clubs wanting to hold commemorative events. 

James Goodwin, from the Royal British Legion said: "The Battle of the Somme is the costliest in British history. It symbolises the waste and the tragedy of the entire First World War. Its losses were felt particularly deeply by sport. 

"Athletes and players served and fell in great numbers at the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on sports at all levels, both amateur and professional, to commemorate their contribution. Sport has the ability to touch every community and we hope that Sport Remembers will unite our nation in ensuring their sacrifice is never forgotten."

The Royal British Legion has also released a Somme app, telling the story of the battle, with historian Dan Snow. 

Source & images: The Royal British Legion

Posted by: CN Editorial Team